Monday, November 2, 2009
Food Not Bombs, Kuala Lumpur Chapter
The Food Not Bombs KL logo, reproduced with kind permission. The universal FNB logo is one of a fist holding a carrot. This is a localised one of a fist with rice.
When I was still the coordinator of the MNS Green Living Special Interest Group , I was intrigued by the emergent interest our members have on issues such as food security, distributive justice, vegetarian activism, mindful living and how all of these relate to the topic of food wastage , which I covered in two issues.
Recent conversations with my friends convinced me that I should pay Food Not Bombs, a local volunteer-based organisation, a visit to find out opportunities for volunteering and donating surplus garden produce. I first found out about Food Not Bombs KL seven years ago when I started assisting Brian L. with his food collection project to purchase food and provisions for welfare organisations that seem to have slipped under the radar of most donors and sponsors. I was most supportive of the fact that they were uncompromising about serving only vegetarian food to their clients. Vegetarian food is not only better for the environment and human health, but also non-violent and non-denominational.
I knew that Food Not Bombs KL (hereafter, FNBKL) was still serving food to the homefree (we don’t use the term homeless) and other clients at the corner of Jalan Gereja every Sunday evening, so I made arrangements to spend an evening with them. I was lucky in that I had 2 young volunteers to help me at the SPCA in the afternoon, and so I managed to wash and groom the dogs, spring-clean the Cattery and finish cleaning the front half of the animal shelter by 1700 hrs. I washed up, purchased a bag of dukong manis and made my way to downtown KL to share my food with strangers.
At 1800 hrs, a little sidewalk ‘stall’ was set up and the dedicated volunteers started ladling out rice, vegetables and herbal soup to their clients. I closed in, placed my food contribution on the table, introduced myself to Thilaga, Husni and Yew Hun and offered to assist in serving food and doing the dishes.
'Business' was good today. There is nothing left except dregs of Husni’s lovely herbal soup. I did not take any photos of the clients because I appreciate their need for privacy.
The official creed of Food Not Bombs KL reads as follows:
“Food Not Bombs Kuala Lumpur (FNBKL) is an independent, do-it-yourself, non-hierarchical collective consisting of a number of individuals who organize and participate in the collection, preparation and distribution of free food for the city's homeless (homefree) and the destitute.
We believe that hunger and poverty are not necessary, especially in a society which disposes of so much perfectly edible and safe foodstuff out of commercial interest. We save and recycle "commercially-unwanted" foodstuff by gathering it from commercial outlets around town. We will then cook and serve free meals on the streets of KL every weekend.
We do this as a form of protest and also in order to raise awareness to the problems of wastage and unfair food distribution in our society. We also aim to empower the urban homeless & destitute community with solidarity, knowledge and basic living skills.
Help is always needed from you. We are in constant need of your solidarity, donations and manpower to keep this activity consistent and effective. We are thankful for anything which you can help us with, and appreciate your efforts in providing our fellow human beings struggling on the streets with their basic needs which the society at large took for granted.
We all look forward to working with you to tilt the scale back to equality.”
Volunteers and clients doing the dishes together. I was glad to know that as practicing ‘freegans’ and ‘freecyclists’, FNBKL would be happy to accept the plant waste enzyme (as a biodegradable, phosphate-free cleaning solution) that our Malaysian Nature Society members have made a surplus of.
Yew Hun, Husni and Thilaga wish to keep a low profile because they are doing this without any vested interests and without any desire for self-glorification.
Members of our society are always too quick to dismiss our youth as spoilt and indifferent, and the destitute as indolent and unproductive. FNBKL shows us that the way forward is not by passing judgment on others, but by helping one another so that the nation can become strong. As I have always averred, a nation is only as strong as its weakest members. When we exclude and disenfranchise certain members of our society, what we are essentially doing is preventing them from becoming involved and contributing members of our community. This is why we should make inclusiveness as much a developmental goal for Malaysia as having adequate infrastructure and technology.
As I bade goodbye to my newfound friends for the night, I assured them that I would be back soon, and that I would compile a list of the items and supplies needed and disseminate it to MNS members who would be able to contribute.
So come on by if you are able to assist, or have anything to contribute. At FNBKL, everyone is a volunteer, a participant, a decision-maker, a contributor, a client – and most of all, a friend.